Fashion PR Case Study: Donna Marsh Launches in La Jolla


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dm-party.jpgFor the past six months, I have been channeling my inner office girl (that’s me in the silver) at a PR agency to introduce a new, upscale women’s clothing store to San Diego. Opportunities to brand fashion retail from the ground up are slim in this market, and the experience has provided me with tremendous opportunity for growth. I have recently moved on to new projects, but remain extremely proud of all that we accomplished for Donna Marsh.

Soup to Nuts Approach Launches New Upscale Women’s Store into San Diego Market with Style

BERKMAN was selected by experienced retailers Donna and Mark Steinback to help launch their newest venture, Donna Marsh, into San Diego. Opened in December, 2007, Donna Marsh is an impressive 5,500 square-foot designer fashion haven that provides the product reach of a high-end department store in an accessible yet inspired environment filled with hand-selected items for the chic, stylish woman. A true all-occasion store, Donna Marsh carries more than 150 top brands including designer denim, sportswear, spa-wear, special occasion gowns, designer accessories and gift items.

Donna, the store’s namesake (Marsh is her maiden name), previously owned Edith Morré, a well-established, exclusive women’s store on Palm Desert’s fashionable El Paseo. However, while some San Diego women would be familiar with the former store, Donna Marsh was to be a completely new venture, with its own look, brand and a younger, fresher appeal. BERKMAN quickly stepped in to build the Donna Marsh brand from the ground up through branding, aggressive media outreach, a full-scale advertising campaign, introductory Web site and a glamorous Grand Opening fashion gala.


donna-marsh-logo.jpgThe goal of the integrated campaign was to launch Donna Marsh into the San Diego market, clearly positioning the Donna Marsh shopping experience as being par with must-shop Southern California destinations like Rodeo Drive, South Coast Plaza, and El Paseo. It would also establish owner Donna Steinback as the face of the brand and esteemed fashion expert. Throughout fall 2007, the BERKMAN strategy involved developing relationships with TV, print and online fashion media in San Diego through consistent communication including an introductory letter, media preview tours, interviews, and wardrobe pulls for fashion spreads and TV fashion-trend segments. In addition to traditional PR, BERKMAN produced a full-scale, 4-month advertising campaign that showcased Donna Marsh in full-page ads across three top San Diego lifestyle publications. In true innovative fashion, BERKMAN looked to successful San Diego women who epitomize the sophisticated Donna Marsh brand to volunteer for the photo shoot, forgoing the tradition of using fashion models. In further ingenuity, BERKMAN developed a mutually-beneficial relationship with a nearby La Jolla boutique hotel, La Parisi, eliminating the location cost altogether.

BERKMAN developed all media and background materials, including press kits that were distributed to media in signature bronze and red metallic Donna Marsh bags, and a fresh, clean introductory Web site. In the midst of relentless media outreach, BERKMAN also spearheaded an ambitious plan to launch Donna Marsh into the public mindset through a dramatic “Grand Opening” fashion event in January 2008 that included closing an entire block and building a runway right in the middle of the street!


Initial PR outreach resulted in feature stories and fashion spreads in the majority of local media. Building off of an amazing amount of pre-established buzz, The Donna Marsh Grand Opening was a smash hit – bringing in more than 300 top San Diego influentials including members of Las Patronas, the La Jolla Town Council, Fashion Group International, Country Friends, and more than 30 media attendees.

Upon arrival, guests walked down a red carpet to the bright flashes of “paparazzi,” courtesy of volunteer amateur photographers looking for the perfect glamour shot. More photos were taken during the event as all the major social writers of the city chatted up the best-dressed crowd and made sure their photographers captured every moment of the event.
dm2.jpg With the entire block of Fay Avenue closed down, BERKMAN built a large white tent, where, warmed by heaters, guests enjoyed sumptuous treats by top San Diego eateries including The Oceanaire Seafood Room, The Palm, Island Prime, Whisknladle, and The Cottage as well as extensive libations including the signature Donna Marsh-tini. In addition to delicious food, Donna Marsh models catwalked along a black runway lit with red lights and the Donna Marsh logo to an enraptured tent packed with party-goers, many of whom purchased items directly off the models as soon as the show ended. The inspired evening ended with a vibrant live auction led by none other than the charismatic Jack Berkman himself.

In order to give back to their new community, the Steinback’s donated ten-percent of proceeds from purchases and 100% of all live and silent auction items to Las Patronas, an all-volunteer philanthropic organization committed to providing financial assistance to non-profit organizations in San Diego County.

Post-event coverage continues to pour in from San Diego media and Donna Marsh is enjoying is looking forward to dressing San Diego’s finest for years to come.

(this post was chosen as a Coutorture Morning Must-Read for 2/13)

Crosby Noricks

Crosby Noricks

Known as the “fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory,” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and the “West Coast ‘It’ girl of fashion PR,” (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks put fashion public relations on the digital map when she launched PR Couture in 2006. She is the author of Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, available on Amazon. A decade later, Crosby is a successful fashion marketing strategist who spends her time championing PR Couture's growth and mentoring fashion publicists through her signature online course PRISM. Learn more about opportunities to work directly with Crosby at her website